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D-Day at 75

Picture the scene … The decade is the 1940’s. The Second World War has been going on for a few years, but as a soldier all you have been doing is constantly training at your base in England. Spring 1944 comes around and you notice a change in atmosphere. Your training has been more intense recently, but no-one really knows why.

Norma Harpur

Norma Harpur. This is a name that the vast majority of you reading this will not know. However, I have come to realise that what I write, if it helps me or just one other person, then it’s worthwhile doing. Norma died last week, aged just 62, surrounded by three of her friends, one of which was my mum.

The end result…

It would be impossible to not realise that A and AS Level results have been
published today and that GCSE results are to be published next week. As we are getting used to hearing every year, I am sure that UK pupils will again have “excelled” across the country and many will go on to further study at a university or college. But why does everyone put so much emphasis on results?

The end of an era in Finaghy Primary

On 1st September 1976 a newly qualified teacher started their first teaching job in Ballykinler Primary School in Newcastle, Co Down. In early 1977 they were back at home in Belfast when they asked the then Principal of Finaghy Primary, Robert Brown, if there were any jobs at the school. It turned out there was and this teacher started in FPS in September 1977, teaching P5. It was the same school that they had attended as a child so they had come full circle as it were.

D-Day 72 years on

Picture the scene … its dawn 72 years ago … the date is 6th June 1944 – D-Day. The average age of your friends to your left and right is around 22. You board a landing craft for the journey to France. Not only are you faced with a journey in an uncomfortably warm landing craft for over an hour, once there you are told you have a survival rate of around 50% or 60%. At Utah and Omaha, the first wave of attack had a survival rate of 20% to 30%. And that is if you even make the beach. Once there you will face “Hell on Earth”.

A Gentle Giant who will be sorely missed

This is one of the hardest posts that I have ever written but it is something that needs to be said.

As I was driving to work on Friday 4th March I heard of an ongoing security alert in the Creagh Road/Woodstock Road area of Belfast. I thought nothing of it as, sadly, security alerts are still commonplace across Northern Ireland.

I came into work, checked the BBC Northern Ireland website and read that the alert was around a bomb that had partially exploded under a vehicle, but again I didn’t pay much heed to it. That all changed when I received a phone call around 09:30 from one of my fellow Community Rescue Service (CRS) volunteers to inform me that I knew personally who it was that had been targeted. As the story developed, everyone else knew that the victim was a serving Prison Officer who was on his way to work in HMP Hydebank Wood, but those in CRS knew him personally.

A walk in the park

I remember sitting in a school assembly in September 2005 when a notice was read out about the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Award Scheme. I had heard a bit about this before but I decided that I would go along to the meeting in a few weeks’ time to sign up to do it through school.

For those who don’t know, the Award Scheme was set up by Prince Phillip in 1956 and there are are three levels of programme you can do which, when successfully completed, lead to a Bronze, Silver or Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

Summer is the time for some Madness

Summer Madness has been a big part of my summer for just over a decade. For those who don’t know, Summer Madness (or just ‘Madness’ as it is affectionately known) is Ireland’s largest Christian festival.

One time at band camp…

I remember the day in primary school when someone from the City of Belfast School of Music (CBSM) came in to my classroom. She had all sorts of equipment with her and for whatever reason I was given a bit of hosepipe to blow into. Whatever my technique was, it was decided that I was destined to be a trumpet player and a few weeks later a brass Yamaha trumpet arrived and my association with the CBSM began.

Memories of a great man

On Friday 21st December 2007 I was part of a group from the City of Belfast Concert Band playing carols in Forestside Shopping Centre, raising money for our tour to America the following summer. I was there with my cousin (also in the band), his parents and our granda.

My granda sat as close as he could to us both, feet tapping throughout, and seemed to be really enjoying his night. After I had been left home, my uncle was due to leave my grandfather home but phoned to say that my granda was complaining of not feeling well and that they were taking him to hospital where he was admitted.

The following day I was bag-packing (again as a fundraiser) in Sainsbury’s at Holywood Exchange. I noticed my dad outside a lot earlier than I was expecting him and he told me that my granda had died. A part of my world fell to pieces. This was the person who I had spent the majority of my summers with growing up, had travelling the length of Northern Ireland and further afield with and who I had seen on a daily basis for the majority of my life.

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